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Dropping in some of recent former (and would-be) Maple Leafs

Let’s face it: trades remain one of the things that, as fans, we enjoy most about following hockey and our beloved Maple Leafs.  We predict trades, we pray for trades, we wonder why our GM’s past and present made the moves they did.  We do this before and after the fact—whether a particular deal actually happens, or not.  It’s one of the pastimes of being a fan, in any sport, really. It’s fun—and it gives us a chance to express our opinions and not have to worry about the consquences.

Since this is a site where I have spent a fair bit of time over the years talking about the “old days”, I’ve naturally written a number of pieces about major trades the Leafs have been involved in since I was a kid:  Some I really do remember like they just happened yesterday.  (Getting Bernie Parent from the Flyers in 1971 may have been the happiest day of my life as a young hockey fan, other than when the Leafs actually won the Cup in the ‘60s…you can click on his name to read more.)

What are some of the memorable Leaf names that have either come or gone through the decades that I’ve been "around”?  Well, it’s a long list, and I’m sure I won’t remember everyone off the top of my head, but I’ll give it a try and see if I can conjure up a few (just staying with “big” names):  Dickie Duff (left), Bob Nevin (a recent guest on our “Leaf Matters” podcast, by the way) Andy Bathgate, Marcel Pronovost, Carl Brewer, Frank Mahovlich, Garry Unger, Norm Ullman, Paul Henderson, Jim Dorey,  Parent, Mike Walton, Dan Maloney, Errol Thompson, Randy Carlyle, Lanny McDonald, Darryl Sittler, Wilf Paiement, Brad Maxwell, Rick Vaive, Doug Jarvis (who never actually played with the Leafs), Wendel Clark, Ed Olczyk, Doug Gilmour, Felix Potvin, Larry Murphy, and well, I’ll stop there.

(A quick note on Duff- he went on to win four Cups with the Habs, not the team we trade him to, mind you.  We got Bathgate and Don McKenny before the playoffs in '64 in the Duff/Nevin deal, and they helped us win that third Cup in a row.  General Manager Punch Imlach later traded Bathgate to Detroit for aging defenseman Marcel Pronovost, who was huge in helping the Leafs win a surprise Cup in 1967 when we upset both Chicago and Montreal in the playoffs.  I hated losing Duff, he was one of my favourite all-time Maple Leafs, but at least we won a couple more championships after he was traded in 1964.  But he did fine by that deal in the end, too.)

The point is, the Leafs have moved some huge names over the decades.  Not exactly Wayne Gretzky or Bobby Orr, maybe, the two biggest hockey names ever traded, but some awfully big and important players in this team’s storied history.  Some of those above are Hall-of-Famers; all were outstanding NHL’ers at some point.  Sometimes you ‘win” a trade, sometimes both teams benefit in the short or long-run.  (Quick ‘non-Leaf’ aside, and share an opinion if you’d like:  who “won” the Calgary-Dallas deal for Jarome Iginla?  The Flames grabbed a young, emerging player in Iginla when he was only 19, a guy who will likely end up in the Hall-of-Fame.  The Stars got Joe Nieuwendyk, now in the HHOF), an older, veteran player who became a strong presence on the Stars squad that won the Stanley Cup.  Iginla has played 16 years, I think it is, in Calgary. Nieuwendyk played half a dozen seasons or so in Dallas before being dealt to Jersey for Jason Arnott….so who won that deal? Or was it a case of both sides benefitting, as I alluded to  above?)

But back to our team.  We could go on with a list of Leafs traded in more recent times.  That list above does not even take into account what, for many younger Leaf fans, is the true “modern” era of the team.

So let’s talk about that for a moment. It’s always enlightening to drop in and see how some relatively recent ex-Leafs are doing in their new environs.  I’m likely forgetting some individuals and if so, feel fee to provide me with an update.  But here’s the list that jumps out at me that some Leaf followers might still have an interest in, maybe even a rooting interest because you liked how they played while they were part of the blue and white:

Ian White:  small but tough and talented ex-Leaf.  Currently a Red Wing, he had a very solid year last season, as he did the year prior (2010-’11) with San Jose.  He was a plus 23 with the Wings in 2011-’12.  This year he has been hurt, so it’s hard to know from the surface numbers what impact he has had.  When healthy, he is still playing significant minutes on the Red Wing blueline, just over 20 minutes a game.  So far this year he is a +2 in 5 games.

Jay Harrison:  I liked Harrison as a Leaf, too.  I remember him as a very thoughtful, hard-working young guy.  Had some solid moments here but has seemed to thrive more in Carolina, because he has gotten a chance to play.  Not a big offensive numbers d-man (though he scored the overtime winner against Ottawa on Thursday night), he logs about 17 minutes a night and is currently -1 on the young season for the Canes.

Viktor Stalberg:  Stalberg quietly scored 22 goals for the Hawks a year ago.  He has 6 points in 11 games this season and is a +2  averaging just over 14 minutes of ice time a game.

Kris Versteeg:  the ‘we hardly knew you’ Leaf winger had a nice season a year ago with the surprising Panthers—54 points in the regular season.  But this year he is minus 5 in only five games.  We’ll see if his on-again off-again performance continues.  The guy sure has been traded a lot in his career already, eh?

Jiri Tlusty: Here’s one deal that I wonder, looking back (which is easy to do, after the fact, I realize) if we got enough for this guy.  He’s playing regularly on a decent ‘Canes team.  He is a +5 in 9 games this season, with 2 assists to his credit.  (He had 36 points a season ago and was a +1 in 79 games.)

Alex Steen:  we’re going back a bit now to the second Fletcher stint in Toronto, but he has blossomed into a solid NHL player under Ken Hitchcock.  (I once wrote a piece here entitled “Does anyone miss Alexander Steen” but few seemed to care at the time.)  He battled injuries a year ago but was still +24 in only 43 games.  This season, he has yet to score a goal, but does have 7 assists in 10 games and is a +3, averaging close to 19 minutes a night.

Carlo Colaiacovo:  a free-agent signing now with the Red Wings, he has been hurt again this season. Carlo had four pretty strong seasons with the Blues, usually as a plus player.

Tuukka Rask:  the number-one goalie with the Bruins after the departure of Tim Thomas, Rask has a 1.96 GAA this season, and a solid save percentage at .922, though things can change quickly when it comes to “numbers” in a limited games.  No doubt some Leaf fans wish he was still in Toronto, though he is a pretty volatile guy, isn’t he? He might find playing in Toronto a bit stressful.

Keith Aulie:  VLM readers will know I always wonder about the wisdom of sending away big, tough and young (Aulie is still only 23, with actual NHL experience) defensemen, even when the system supposedly has a great deal of depth.  Right now, and again things could change, he seems to be a 5-6 defenseman with Tampa, playing about 13 minutes a night on average, some games more. He is minus 1 in 10 games with Tampa this season.

Luke Schenn:  'Luke the lightning rod' (at least he sure seemed to be when he was in a Leaf uniform)  is a +2 in the early going with the Flyers, seeing about 20 minutes a night.  At 23, the often-criticized former Leaf could emerge as a valuable long-term piece for the Flyers.  Is he going to be “top-four”?  Bottom–two? We’ll see.  But I know he’s not afraid to hit guys.

Now, I recognize that a very cursory look at raw numbers gives us precious little information on how these players noted above are actually playing this season. I haven’t seen enough of any of them to be able to say they are playing tremendous all-around hockey, whether it’s winning face-offs, corner battles or playing great in his own zone.  I haven’t got a clue.  If some of you do, let us know.

I’ve not mentioned other familiar names like Stempniak or Kaberle and of course the Winnipeg trio of Wellwood, Antropov, Ponikarovsky that we just saw in action against the Leafs Thursday night.   I sort of feel as though we’ve had those discussions here already.

For those who care but don’t know the latest data, “would-be” Maple Leafs Tyler Seguin and Doug Hamilton are playing OK by all accounts with the Bruins.  (We were able to see them play in their recent game against Toronto.) Seguin got off to a slow start statistically and now has 6 points and a +7 rating.  Young Hamilton is minus 1, but seems to be playing about 19 minutes a night, sometimes more.  It obviously helps to have Seidenberg and Chara around.  I’m happy not to have any promising 19 year-old defensemen (can we say “Reilly”?) learning on the job here by watching our guys.

This is a only small snapshot, of course, of what was in blue and white (or, in the case of Hamilton and Seguin, what could have been, if the Leafs had held on to those picks and if they had drafted those particular players).  It’s hardly scientific. But as you know, I’m not a research guy.  I just try to provide a forum for discussion.

By the way, do you miss any of those ex-Leafs or wish any of them were still here?

Let me know.


  1. This may be going outside the parameters of this discussion Michael, but you mentioned Joe Nieuwendyk, so thought I would repeat my lament that Toronto never got Alex Mogilny in his prime. Besides being a delightful guy to hear interviewed, the guy had MOVES. Yes, there was that giveaway in 02 vs Carolina, but I saw him when he was a Devil again in 06 I think it was, in a visit to Toronto,in person at the ACC...the Devils lost 3-1 I think, but it was a pleasure to watch him skate, even at that advanced stage of his career.

  2. Agree on Mogilny, Sean. I've often posted here that there are a number of fine players who wore the blue and white that I only wish had been here earlier- more in the prime of their career. They sometimes got here a little "late"- Mogilny is one of those, as nice as he still was to watch at times (when he was interested in playing).

  3. Quick thoughts:
    Mogilny reminded me of Alomar. Usually, once a game, he'd do something, make some move, that I'd never seen before. Unlike Alomar, he didn't always seem to be engaged in the goings-on.
    Another quick thought: looking at your list, I began to wonder who we developed in our system and didn't trade away? drawing a blank here... there must be someone...
    Dick Duff was one of my favorite players, too. When I was a kid, I don't think I really understood why players got traded. They were, and would always be in my eyes, Leafs! I was surprised to read in today's post that Duff won 4 more Cups post-Toronto. 6 rings is quite an accomplishment, to say the least. You've made me wonder how many other ex-Leafs there are in that "did-well-post-Leafs" category. I'm always aware of what they're doing, in a distant sense, but not much of it registers. How many Habs fans think of Duff as their guy? Carlyle, for example, is clearly more beloved in both Winnipeg and Pittsburgh than Toronto, yet he'll always be a Leaf to me.
    The talk of who "wins" trades masks the purpose of trading, doesn't it? Ideally, both teams will benefit. Sometimes it takes another trade to make the pieces fall into place, sometimes they never do. I'm tired of all the Kessel/Seguin/Hamilton talk. Not only have both teams benefitted, but the teams themselves were so different to begin with - Boston much closer to making a Cup run, Toronto in a shambles - that it's really apples/oranges.
    Of our recent trades, I hated the Stalberg deal, and only time will tell if the Aulie deal works out for us. At least we seem to have a number of defencemen who can play at his level. Ian White was one of my favorites, but I think we came out OK in that deal. I really liked Steen and Colaiacovo, still do - and Stempniak didn't work out here. Luke Schenn? Rask? Both examples of horrid mismanagement by the Leafs' front office, in my opinion.
    Your post today made me wonder why certain versions of a team become "my" team. For me, it's the 62-64 Leafs. Though I've been passionate about other teams - the late 70's, early 90's, early 00's - they'll never replace that 60's team. And the fact that most of them were traded away eventually, despite my continuing ardent fandom, still, at some deep level in my memory, baffles adolescent me. Maybe it was the beginning of a more profound understanding about the impermanence and unpredictability of many relationships!

  4. There are many layers to your post today, Gerund O', and I appreciate the broader 'life' nuances that you are addressing.

    As adults, we understand "why" (most of the time!) that guys get traded. As kids or even adolescents, as you mention, it's more difficult to fully comprehend.

    It's true, so many of "our" Leafs, those hockey heroes of our early blue and white fandom, were indeed dealt away, or allowed (or pushed) to leave. The list is long: Duff, Nevin, Mahovlich, Walton, Keon (essentially shoved out the door by Ballard, sadly), Sittler and so many others. Yet we stay on as fans.

    Those early '60s teams stand out for me as well, Gerund. A "next" favourite was that 1970-'71 team- such a nice mix of experience and emerging young players with a blend of toughness and skill. Thanks Gerund.